Newsreel 57 | Winter 2007
Witarina Te Miriarangi Parewahaika Harris QSM (1906–2007)
E tangi ana te ngākau i te matenga o tā tātou Kuia. He tatai whetū ki te rangi, mau tonu, mau tonu. He tatai tangata ki te whenua, ngaro noa, ngaro noa. Rārangi maunga tu te ao, tu te po. Rārangi tāngata, ka ngaro, ka ngaro. Moe mai i te rangimarie.
Witarina Harris (nee Mitchell) became one of New Zealand’s first movie stars in 1929 when she was chosen for the lead role in the movie Under the Southern Cross, also known as The Devil’s Pit. She gave a luminous performance but chose not to pursue a fillm career.
In the early 1980s, soon after the Film Archive was established, the feature film was rediscovered and her work was recognised for its significance by Archive Director Jonathan Dennis. Witarina was then invited to become the organisation’s kaumatua. In this influential role she travelled throughout New Zealand and to international film festivals around the world well into her nineties, introducing audiences to treasures from the Film Archive’s collection.
In 2006 Witarina was one of five recipients of the inaugural Taiki Ngapara Awards held as part of the Film Archive’s 25th Anniversary. Witarina always gave unstinting support to the Film Archive and its staff.
It is with great sadness that we farewell our beloved kaumatua and celebrate a life well lived.
Capability Review Update
Most years there is some interest within the Film Archive in the outcomes of the Government’s Budget process. This year, however, there was much more tension than ever before as the Archive waited for the Treasurer’s announcement.
In mid 2006, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage engaged Professor Roger Horrocks to carry out a Client Capability Review – a formal assessment of the organisation’s ability to carry out its core work. In preparation for the Review the Chief Executive, managers and staff of the Film Archive compiled an extensive set of data about the Archive’s operations and resources. Five primary areas of need were identified – working capital, digital capability, accommodation, basic programme capability and basic infrastructure.
Dr Horrocks prepared a comprehensive report for the Ministry, analysing the issues and recommending a minimum increase in annual baseline funding of $1.4 million to address the problems he found. He summed up the situation “Having grown into a substantial national collection, the Archive’s infrastructure and basic systems are now seriously over-extended and need to be up-dated.”
The Review was used as the basis for the Archive’s 2007 Budget bid. When the May Budget announcement was made, an additional $500,000 in baseline funding was voted to the Film Archive through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage appropriation. While just over a third of what was asked for, this increase in baseline funding will certainly have an impact. The additional funding will enable basic programme capability and infrastructure to reach a minimum level, and while the negative working capital situation was not directly addressed, the additional cash flow generated will ease that situation somewhat. Resources for digital capability are now being vigorously pursued from other sources.
The need for long-term accommodation for the Film Archive’s collections was not addressed at all. The Archive will continue to pursue alternative sources of funding, to find a way to house the expanding collection in a safe and robust environment.
In the meantime, the Archive will concentrate on upgrading infrastructure and strengthening programming and preservation using the funding that has been made available.
Catching the Long Tail
In late march over 85 participants from universities, libraries, funding agencies, Ministries, archives and museums joined web activists and film makers at Chasing the Long Tail, the archive’s seminar on digital issues for audio visual archives. Panels of speakers discussed digitisation, storage, preservation and public access to audio visual material in the context of the expanding possibilities and rising expectations brought by digital technology.
Following an opening address from Associate Minister for the Arts Judith Tizard, the most significant theme of the day was the need for more detailed focus on the specific requirements of audio visual material than has currently been developed for the National Digital Strategy and the willingness of the principal holders of film, video and audio material – Television New Zealand, Radio New Zealand and the Film Archive – to work more closely together to achieve that.
Other issues of note included the range of standards for the digitisation and presentation of video; the difficulties of meeting expectations for delivery of on-line video with the current level of national infrastructure; the proliferation of uses for digital audio visual material; and the divergence of views over questions of copyright in the digital era.
Blogger and media commentator Russell Brown, who was a contributor to the Access panel, pointed out that there was a real need for serious technical discussion in this area – to share the knowledge that various specialists have built up.
Jo Tyndall of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage urged the holders of collections to co-operate by making their material not only available on-line, but also easily navigated with copyright issues properly addressed. TVNZ Archive head Alan Ferris asked what the essential difference was between the kind of access currently offered by archives and providing the same material to users sitting at home in front of their computers.
Chief Executive Frank Stark wrapped up the day by reading from the Copyright Act 1994, which gives the three principal archives the right to “show” and “play” material to the public without infringing copyright. He challenged those present to reflect on whether those rights create a platform for the archives to make their holdings more freely available in the digital era.
There was strong support from participants for further sectoral conferences and workshops to address the unfulfilled need for information and co-ordination on key issues.
One day in Phnom Penh
Jamie Lean is Film Archive Director of Operations and Secretary General of SEAPAVAA. He recently traveled to the capital of Cambodia for an Executive Council meeting and to check out the landscape for the next SEAPAVAA Conference in August.
Phnom Penh still feels like a small town from another century but it’s busy. The streets are packed with motor scooters, tuk tuks and a surprising number of shiny new black SUVs. It’s a hot and hazy day and we duck back into the chill of the aircon’d van after a quick visit to the Russian Market – so called because when it was set up, after the Khmer Rouge lost power to the Vietnamese, the only customers were Russian advisors.
After the market bustle we continue on our tour of the city’s institutions. In the morning we had visited TVK, the state owned television broadcaster beaming an impressive array of channels and languages around the nation from a rather modest location. The floors crackled as we crossed hundreds of small broken tiles to visit the studio, production suite, costumes and archive. It all looked familiar with Umatic machines being used to transfer legacy tapes from the 80s to DV and Betacam-SP – the sign barring handguns from the news studio was a little unusual though!
The staff at the Cambodian National Archive were also very welcoming and enthusiastic, although detailed or technical discussions soon bogged down in language difficulties. The Archive building itself is a lovely 1930s French Colonial-era purpose-built archive that remained considerably cooler than the outside, despite having open windows and doors and only fans for cooling. No films are kept here – only paper records being carefully worked on for preservation. A new building is due to open next-door in 2008 to house films and tapes. The complex is surrounded by lush vegetation as the Archive leases its grounds to a garden centre and nursery for extra income.
After the aroma-filled, colourful and loud sensory overload of the midday market, the Bophana Centre seems like an oasis of cool quiet modernity. Located in a very stylish 60s building this joint French/Cambodian audio visual centre offers up-to-date research and production facilities for film makers. It also acts as a collection point for Cambodian audio visual history.
Just down the road from the Bophana Centre is the Ministry of Culture and Fine Art. We climb a series of stairs past several vast and empty rooms and sit down at a long double set of glass tables opposite all their senior managers. A halting, and at times, slightly surreal conversation ensues with staff from the Department of Cinema and Cultural Diffusion. After the meeting we visit a small room housing the remnants of the national film collection. Most of the films were donated by foreign countries after the Khmer Rouge, who destroyed almost all cultural artifacts, were deposed.
To end the tour the Executive Council visited two hotels that are likely to be used for the next SEAPAVAA Conference in August. We settled on the Sunway Hotel near Wat Phnom, the small “hill” (a mere 20 feet high) that Phnom Penh is named after. This offered the best rates, is close to the river and the many cafes, restaurants and hotels situated along the river front.
Another year is well underway and the mediaplex continues to bustle along at a rapid rate.
An extremely successful partnership was formed with the Arts Foundation of New Zealand for our regular Wednesday New Zealand feature nights. Arts Foundation Laureates – The Films was created as a special selection of New Zealand films, either made by, featuring or including the work of Arts Foundation Laureate Award recipients.
Screened once a week from 4 April – 4 July, the series was curated by Public Programmes Co-ordinator Diane Pivac. “The great thing about the Laureate Awards is that they recognise the full range of art forms. In this carefully selected line-up we see the work of composers, dancers, writers, musicians, cinematographers, producers, actors as well as our film makers. It’s important to honour these contributions and see some exceptional New Zealand film making in the process.”
A series of films were screened as part of New Zealand Music Month in May, including a documentary on Wellington band Fat Freddy’s Drop which was filmed in London, Berlin and Italy in 2005. Kiwi film maker Sandor Lau also had Behaviours of the Backpacker and Squeegee Bandit screen over three consecutive weeks. Next up, the mediatheatre is gearing up to play host as a venue for the Telecom 36th Wellington Film Festival.
Meanwhile in the Pelorus Trust mediagallery, a fine selection of exhibitions has brought all kinds of people through the door. A well-received Artist Film Festival kicked off in March garnering a palpable degree of respect from the local arts community. This was followed by an exhibition titled Looklessness where Auckland artists Eve Gordon and Sam Hamilton worked directly on film in the finest tradition of Len Lye.
With the intention of creating “a process of looking that’s more like listening with the eyes,” the pair, who have shown their work throughout Australia, in Berlin and around New Zealand to great acclaim, marry experimental sound and imagery with a range of weird and wacky film techniques.
An intriguing collection of visual Tanka poetry by Richard von Sturmer was a deeply moving exhibition. After living in a Zen Monastery for ten years the ex-pop music writer and performer created a meditative filmic experiment on his return to New Zealand. Brit Bunkley’s short videos of apocalyptic dreamscapes occupied the gallery in June. The videos, created by compositing photorealistic 3D animations with digitally altered footage of rural New Zealand, produce a believable yet skewed countryside setting that was both convincing and unsettling.
The ambitious UpStage Festival is being performed to a global audience on 7 July. Purpose-built for live interactive performance events, this cyberformance will screen live at the mediagallery while being simultaneously broadcast via the worldwide web.
The Auckland Office of the Film Archive is thrilled to have successfully completed the renovation and expansion of its operational services.
A grant from the ASB Community Trust enabled us to move our office and library space to the front of the building while keeping our existing exhibition space as a separate area.
The new space allows for a separate staff office complete with upgraded computers and office equipment. The new library area, renovated with new furniture and shelving, doubles the amount of viewing material available; increases the number of books, and provides space for an extra viewing station and computer for database research.
We were also lucky enough to be able to purchase a screening kit including projector, screen, and speakers to be used for off-site community screenings.
With our transformation now complete we are splendidly equipped to respond to the increasing needs of users within the greater Auckland region.
We look forward to your visit. – Siobhan Garrett, Auckland Operations Assistant
Opening hours : Mon – Friday 11am – 5pm | Saturday 11am – 4pm
Te Hokinga Mai ki Taranaki
In April the Māori Programmes team of the Film Archive traveled the Taranaki Region with a special screening Programme, Te Hokinga Mai ki Taranaki, the returning of treasured images to Taranaki. Films specific to marae and surrounding areas were screened at Taiporohēnui in Hawera, te Niho at Parihaka and Ōwae Marae in Waitara.
The wharenui at Taiporohēnui Marae is being carved at the moment so the screening was held in the dining hall. The set-up for a screening can take up to an hour and a half and as we had hired some of the equipment we arrived early just in case there were any surprises. And there were! At 12 feet tall the screen was far too big for the room. After some persuasion, gaffer tape and clamps, we managed to set it up ‘properly’.
The atmosphere was very relaxed with an enthusiastic audience who enjoyed identifying people and events from their past. One kuia, after watching the footage of the German ship Kommadore Johnson, approached me saying that she boarded and toured the ship when it arrived in New Plymouth in 1939. She said it was open to the public and special trains ran straight to the wharf. She also mentioned with a grin, that quite a few crew members were not onboard when it left.
Te Niho o Te Ati Awa at Parihaka was the venue for the second screening. Some locals and members of the public at the screenings in Hawera turned up for a second viewing. Again the atmosphere was informal and at times quite emotional, especially when images of their whare Te Niho or elders and whanau members who have since passed, appeared on the screen.
Ōwae Marae in Waitara was the venue for the last screening. Kaumātua, pakeke and students made up the audience. They were excited and quite vocal as they watched images of people and past events. But as the screening continued and more images appeared of their wharetipuna, hui and people the audience fell into a silence, enthusiastically showing their appreciation afterwards.
The kaupapa of Te Hokinga Mai screenings is to connect iwi and hapu with their moving image heritage. But these are not the only connections developed by such screenings. Ongoing contact between Archive staff and iwi representatives is developed as negotiations for the kaitiakitanga of their films is discussed. And, presenting such screenings means we get to meet, connect, and have continued contact with many amazing and knowledgeable people. — Poutakawaenga, Himiona Grace
Touring Film Show
National Programmes Manager Jane Paul reports on the Archive’s Outreach activities
So far this year community screenings have taken place in Island Bay, Ranfurly, Wairoa, Mahia, Putaruru, Hamilton, and Pakuranga.
Film Archive screenings were held at two Wellington conferences: the New Zealand Society of Genealogists Conference 2007 and the Public History association at Opotiki.
The Touring Film Show has also participated in the Island Bay Festival, the Ranfurly Art Deco Festival and will be taking part in Opotiki’s annual Silent Film Festival. The Film Archive’s main contribution will be the feature The Adventures of Algy, (1925). Advertised as a fine comedy romance; “All corners of New Zealand are picturised: Maori men, and Maidens, Rotorua’s Gorgeous Grandeur, the Streets of Wellington, Bathing Beauties at Lyall Bay, the Kelburn Car, the Romance of Busy Sydney, Cycling in Christchurch, Taranaki’s Oilfields, Dunedin’s Pie Cart, Gorgeous Theatre Scenes and Maori Dances.”
The Festival circuit continues in July with the Paekakariki Film Festival, and in August, two programmes at the Christchurch Arts Festival. A Thrill in the Dark, is a magic lantern show with a collection of films from the first decade of cinema. The second programme titled Maud Basham’s Pudding (Maud more commonly known as Aunt Daisy), will be hosted by television cook Richard Till who will present a wide range of “culinary” delights from the Film Archive’s collection.
More programmes are planned for later in the year, including a tribute to film maker Mike Walker in Levin.
John Patrick Feeney (1922 – 2006)
John Feeney, film maker, writer and photographer died in December last year.
Establishing his career at the National Film Unit, Feeney left New Zealand to seek a creative future overseas where he was recognised as a documentary film maker and photographer of renown.
Feeney joined the NFU in 1947. Writing in Landfall (vol.12, no.3, Sept 1958), Maurice Shadbolt said that Feeney was, “a brilliant product of the most fruitful period in NZ documentary film making.” Feeney’s best known NFU productions, Legend of the Wanganui River (1952), Kotuku (1954) and Pumicelands (1954), were applauded by Shadbolt. While the content was much the same as any number of the Unit’s films, Feeney’s use of style and imagination created a visual poem. Pumicelands, Shadbolt believed, was the best film to come out of the Unit, in every respect a “masterly piece of work.”
Feeney left the Film Unit, and New Zealand, in 1954 and began work at the National Film Board of Canada. He worked there until 1963, making a total of 10 films, two of which received Academy Award nominations for Documentary Short Subject, The Living Stone (1958) and Eskimo Artist: Kenojuak (1963).
At the invitation of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Feeney left Canada in 1963 to film the last flood of the Nile ahead of the opening of the Aswan dam. The documentary, Fountains of the Sun, was released in the 1969 and in 2001 was nominated for inclusion on UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” register.
Intending to stay only one year, Feeney remained in Egypt for 40 years, working in film and photography. A major retrospective exhibition of his work took place in March 2005 at the American University in Cairo and resulted in a book, Photographing Egypt: Forty Years Behind the Lens. John returned to New Zealand in 2003 and re-established his longtime relationship with the Film Archive. The Archive holds copies of many of his films and a collection of papers relating to his film career. – Diane Pivac
Don Selwyn (1936 – 2007)
Don Selwyn was a loving man. He was also wise and sly. It helped that he was a superb craftsman who revelled in fiexing his vast artistic talents.
Don started acting because of a dare: he ended up in a Shakespeare play. In public and in the presence of his rugby mates he played the King of The Fairies in pink tutu and butterfiy wings. It characterised the rest of his life: always eager for a challenge, always brave, and always able to see the rich ironies of life.
He became one of our most reliable faces on the stage and the small and big screens. He brought gravity and a master’s deft touch to any role. When he had achieved the summit of his acting craft, he moved behind the camera to take charge. He was a natural leader and led by inspiration. One of the important things he did was to foster an entire generation of Maori working in film and television. Don saw the lack of iwi participation in the business and figured he’d do something about it himself. And he did. Many of us in the industry owe him a debt of gratitude for the professionalism he encouraged and expected.
Don was always proud of what he knew yet humble before that which he didn’t. He was a lifelong advocate of the place of the Maori language as the true voice of the people. His beloved film Te Tangata Whai Rawa O Weneti is testament to the humble devotion of a true servant of the people. We shall miss Don, for he had no like. He saw both the dark and the light of what it means to be human. He told us about it, and what to do. He was right. Tena koe Don. —Tainui Stephens, Ngaruawahia
Sleeping Dogs 30th Anniversary
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the premiere of Sleeping Dogs at Auckland’s Wintergarden Cinema on 6 October 1977, the Film Archive will be screening a series of New Zealand features from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.
October 3 – Wild Man and Dagg Day Afternoon, 1977
October 6 – Sleeping Dogs, 1977
October 10 – Goodbye Pork Pie, 1981
October 17 – Smash Palace, 1982
October 24 – Utu, 1983
Film Archive Board Member and former Film Commission Marketing Director, Lindsay Shelton, will introduce Sleeping Dogs. He will give a brief talk on how the film helped with the establishment of the NZ Film Commission and changed the face of Kiwi film making forever. The series begins with the double feature Wild Man and Dagg Day Afternoon, and continues with early features by Roger Donaldson and Geoff Murphy that defined the renaissance in the New Zealand film industry. The series will conclude with screenings of The World’s Fastest Indian and Spooked, the recent films of Donaldson and Murphy.
This Is New Zealand at The International Film Festival
This year Festival audiences will have the opportunity to revisit an important part of our cinema history. In 1971 local audiences delighted in the three-screen spectacular, This Is New Zealand. Produced by the National Film Unit for Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, the film showcased the spectacular beauty of the New Zealand landscape, accompanied by the soaring sounds of Sibelius. Originally designed to be shown on three screens, with interlocking projectors, it has not been screened in thirty years. Advances in digital technology have now made it possible to create a single cinemascope 35mm print, with surround sound, re-creating the original viewing experience. Archives New Zealand commissioned the restoration and re-mastering work at Park Road Post. To round out the programme This Is New Zealand will be supported by a selection of NFU newsreels from the era. In addition, short films from the collections will screen in the wider Festival programme.
In a similar vein, the Festival is hosting a retrospective drawn from the first wave of ‘independent’ American cinema in the early 1970s. Heading the programme, is Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977), a fictional portrait of a working-class black family living in Los Angeles. Shot in Watts, the film was Burnett’s MFA thesis project: he operated the 16mm camera himself, edited the B&W images into a visual poem and added a soundtrack of ballads, jazz and the moody blues. Lovingly restored and blown up to 35mm the result is an American masterpiece.
Peter Fonda’s The Hired Hand (1971) has been restored with a remastered soundtrack and refurbished print. In addition to Vilmos Zsigmond’s elegant and distinctive cinematography one notices the silence of this film, where gesture and look replace dialogue and script. Auckland audiences can taste live cinema with Paul Leni’s 1927 The Cat and The Canary, the prototype for Hollywood Gothic, the atmospheric, architectural style adopted by Universal in their classic horror movies of the 1930s.
Telecom 39th Auckland International Film Festival July 13 – 29 Telecom 36th Wellington Film Festival July 20 – August 5 visit www.nzff.telecom.co.nz
Comings and Goings The Film Archive farewells Michael Brook (Auckland Operations Manager), Jeanette Wiles-Cromie (Accountant) and Rebecca Adams (Publicist) and welcomes new publicist Anna Dean and accountant Claire Jameson. At the Front of House we farewell Gabrielle Simpson and welcome Andrew Kennedy.
International Museum Day Was held over the week of 18 May. To mark the day the Archive, with the Friends of the Film Archive, hosted the screening Lost & Found, a collection of rare New Zealand films repatriated from archives around the world.
AV World Heritage Day Is one of just a few UNESCO sponsored ‘world’ days. Held on 27 October the Archive is preparing a number of events to celebrate and raise awareness of audio visual issues.
RW Paul re-released A collection of 62 surviving films made by pioneer British film maker, Robert Paul (1869-1943) has been released on DVD by the British Film Institute. Drawing on archival collections around the world the DVD includes three films preserved by the New Zealand Film Archive: Cupid at the Washtub (1897); A Camp Smithy (1899) and a fragment from The Magic Sword (1901). The DVD is available for viewing in the medialibrary.
Target exceeded The Archive’s On Disk programme was launched in August 2006. In nine short months it has more than doubled the first-year target set by the Ministry of Education to lend 600 educational resource disks to schools around the country.
Donaldson’s Shorts screen In May a season of short films, on loan from the Film Archive, screened in conjunction with All Dogs Shot an exhibition of Roger Donaldson’s still photographs at Lopdell House Gallery, Auckland. Included was Donaldson’s very first film Te Henga (1969), shot at Bethells Beach. The exhibition, and a selection from the screening programme, is to go on tour, starting with the Rotorua Museum in August.